The Balkan peninsula got its name after the Balkan mountains. This south-eastern European region has under the Ottoman rule for centuries. Today the Balkans is till an important geopolitical region – a focus of interest of the great powers. All the main roads between Europe and the Middle East go through the Balkans, over which the world political powers have always tried to impose their domination. Due to the unresolved national issues and rather unstable border lines it is one of the most sensitive and potentially troublesome regions of both Europe and the world. Serbs are one of the peoples living and exercising their national interests on the area of the Balkan Peninsula.
The word balkanisation, with its derogatory connotation, came into international use after the civil wars in the Balkans in the late 20th century, meaning a division of a territory or a nation into smaller, often hostile and conflicting units.
The Balkan Peninsula covers the area of 550,000 km2 and its population is about 53 million. To the east are the Black and the Aegean Sea, to the west the Ionian and the Adriatic Sea. The Balkan countries are: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (the present B&H Federation and the Republika Srpska), Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and the European part of Turkey. Its northern border are the Sava river and the Danube lower course, from Belgrade; its western border is an imaginary line from the Sava river upper course to Rijeka on the Adriatic coast.
The major Balkan cities are: Istanbul (Constantinople), Athens, Belgrade, Sofia and Salonika.
The Balkan recent history, always “stuck” between the East and the West, was determined largely by the two world wars and later on by politics of the major world powers. Break up of Yugoslavia in the late 20th century led to civil wars, resulting in huge losses of lives and people’s homes. Its atrocities drew attention of the whole world. The participating European and American officials’ responsibility for the scope of suffering and deaths in these wars has not been clarified up to the present day.